An Early Start to the Post-Work Walk Season

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What I remember about this walk is how pleased I was to be out walking after work and it not yet the end of February.

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Admittedly, I did escape from work unusually early, but, having done so, I was busy making resolutions – this would be the first of many and I would make this a bumper year for evening wanders.

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The other thing which sticks in my mind is that, after I had strolled to Far Arnside and then around the coast to White Creek ,how much like hard work I found the climb up over Heathwaite and up Arnside Knott and, therefore, how much I was in need of lots of recreational evening jaunts.

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Actually, I stopped some way short of the summit thinking I was running short of daylight. That was the excuse I told myself, anyway.

Haven’t managed a longish evening walk since then. Must try harder!

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An Early Start to the Post-Work Walk Season

Heysham Coast

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And then…I’m way behind again. This little ramble seems so long ago now. The kids were trampolining, I was at a loose end, but the weather looked promising and the sun was shining on St. Peter’s. (I still haven’t been inside, there seemed to be a wedding on.)

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Sadly, the weather rapidly deteriorated, but the Heysham Coast is perfect for a short invigorating stroll.

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Although the views are somewhat marred…

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…by the proximity of the nuclear power station and the ferry port.

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(I can’t seem to do level horizons any more. I wonder…do I stand at a crazy angle without even realising?)

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Later the boys and I were out again for another brief wander near home. Lambert’s meadow…

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…was back to being a meadow, after weeks spent submerged.

Easter holidays started today, hence some time for me to catch up. After weeks spent submerged.

Heysham Coast

Across the Sands to Piel Island

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Sheep Island with Piel Island behind.

Onward and upward, to September and the 2015 Heritage Open Days. There are always lots of interesting events on that weekend across the UK; if you aren’t already aware of the event, then I would recommend that you get acquainted with what’s on offer in your area in 2016.

We chose to join a guided walk organised by the rather wonderful Morecambe Bay Partnership.

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The event will include a guided walk across the sands from Walney Island to Piel Island, led by expert guide John Murphy who will be accompanied by eminent local archaeologist Rachel Newman. 

On Piel Island, Rachel Newman will provide an in-depth tour of the castle ruins, whilst informing visitors about the archaeological investigations undertaken during the 1980’s and hearing about challenges of excavating on a island.

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It was reassuring to have an expert guide on hand. I’ve wandered a little on Morecambe Bay over the years, but I’ve never experienced anything quite like the area close to Piel Island, where the sands disconcertingly wobbled and squirmed like a jelly. The beach was raised in long ridges and furrows, not dissimilar to the medieval field patterns which surrounded the village in which I grew up. You might expect the tops of the ridges to be the driest and safest ground on which to walk, but on the contrary, they often seemed to be the most unstable and conspicuously colloidal: betwixt and between, neither sea nor strand but a treacherous hybrid of the two.

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Roa Island.

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Once on Piel we were treated to an unexpected bonus: the landlord and landlady of ‘The Ship’ are traditionally King and Queen of the island, and today they were knighting two worthy subjects.

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A curious ceremony involving some dressing-up, a short speech, the conventional dubbing with a sword…

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…and then a booze shower:

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As we began our tour of Piel Castle, S and I were distracted by the seals visible, if somewhat distantly, on the beach at the southern tip of Walney Island. I tried to use the zoom on my camera to get S a clearer view of the seals, and was surprised by how clearly Blackpool Tower could be seen in the background.

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Since then, these seals have hit the news..

Seals have used the protected South Walney beaches to haul out and rest for decades. The colony found here are usually older bulls no longer able to control a harem on breeding beaches and sexually immature younger males and females.

But now the reserve could be becoming a breeding colony. Pup one was born almost three weeks ago, then pup two was discovered on Sunday when it was believed to be a day old.

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I really enjoyed the guided tour, but it’s a while ago so I shan’t attempt to regurgitate any of the details. In fact , the principal impression I took away is that surprisingly little is known about the castle, because it so infrequently appears in written records.

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Regular readers will know that I love a good ruin. Tight winding staircases, a dingy dungeon, or lofty battlements all enhance the romance and I was hoping that we might have special permission to access the battlements, but sadly we didn’t. Maybe next September?

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One reason I may not remember too much detail from the castle tour is that little S, once he’d satisfied his curiosity about the seals, discovered that he desperately needed to discuss his feet, one of which was uncomfortable. It transpired that he had managed to pick-up odd wellingtons: to be fair, they looked the same, but were different sizes. Consequently, he returned across the sands barefoot…

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All in all, stunning day out, which was rounded off with an unscheduled fish and chip supper in Ulverston, where, unbeknownst to us – at least before we arrived to find roads closed and streets thronged with people –  the Lantern Festival was in full-swing – all very spectacular (I didn’t take any photos sadly).

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Some links:

Heritage Open Days

Morecambe Bay Partnership

The Ship Inn

Piel Castle

Walney Island Grey Seal Colony

Ulverston Lantern Festival

John Murphy is a former mayor of Barrow, and seemed to have inexhaustible funds of jokes, anecdotes, nature lore, local history, patience and good humour. I gathered that he regularly runs guided walks in and around Walney, and would have liked to include a link, but I can’t find anything on the internet which doesn’t relate to walks which have already happened. Probably worth googling next summer if you are interested.

Across the Sands to Piel Island

Back To Jenny Brown’s

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A Sunday stroll. One of our favourite routes: down through Fleagarth wood to the salt marsh, round to Jenny Brown’s, Jack Scout and home again via Woodwell.

The kids are posing here on the remnants of the bridge which, when I first moved to the area, used to cross Quicksand Pool, but which was laid low by the moving channels hereabouts.

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The channels are continuing to shift, and the old wharf is now under threat of being undermined.

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It may not last much longer. Soon afterwards we heard that moves are afoot, sponsored by local charity Morecambe Bay Partnership, to get an archaeological survey organised, involving local people. I put my name down as a volunteer, but couldn’t think in what capacity I might be qualified to assist, apart from perhaps as a hod-carrier, or chief cook and bottle washer.

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The wharf is already damaged.

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I wonder what will be turned up, and whether a bit of sleuthing will reveal the purpose of these mysterious odds and ends.

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Close by, to the north, low tide shows the remains of a long stone embankment stretching a mile into the sea, the remains of a controversial land reclamation scheme. An Act of Parliament (1874) permitted the Warton Land Company to enclose an area stretching from Jenny Brown’s Point to Hest Bank. Work began in 1875, building the embankment from limestone extracted from the quarry at Jenny Brown’s Point, but proved much more difficult than had been expected by the surveyors and engineers. In 1885 the company was declared bankrupt.

from the website of the Mourholme Local History Society

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Just a couple of weeks later there was a local history weekend in the village (of which more anon). I attended a talk about the Matchless disaster, subject of a new book.

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Here we are in the Gaskell Hall, just after the talk. It was absolutely fascinating, setting the accident in context. I have to confess, I hadn’t previously heard of the ill-fated Matchless.

Just beyond the remains of the embankment is the site of a boating disaster – the sinking of the Matchless in 1894. A pleasure boat sailed from Morecambe with 33 passengers, taking the much-travelled route to Grange, and carrying a cargo of millworkers holidaying in Morecambe. A sudden squall caught the boat broadside, rolled the boat over, and resulted in 25 passengers drowning. 8 others, together with the boat’s skipper, were saved by other pleasure boats. The inquest that followed was brief and hurried, and seemed to be something of a whitewash.

from the website of the Mourholme Local History Society

Matchless Sketch

Many of the victims were from Burnley. I think I shall always think of this tragedy when I visit Jenny Brown’s from now on. And also of the image of Barnum and Bailey’s circus crossing the sands with elephants amongst their company, which was another story we heard that weekend. What a sight that must have been!

We searched for, and found, fossils in the cliffs below Jack Scout.

S also found…

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….a sponge.

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Crepuscular Rays

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Jack Scout seat.

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Traveller’s Joy.

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The Bay from Jack Scout.

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This is the Wolfhouse, named for this crest and its motto: Homo homini lupus.

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A bit of lazy internet research reveals that this is (or maybe) a quote from the comic play Asinaria by Titus Maccius Plautus from 194BC. It’s more normally quoted as ‘Homo homini lupus est’ – Man is a wolf to man. Not the cheeriest thought, but in light of the total disregard for safety which led to the loss of life in the Matchless disaster, or in Morecambe Bay’s other great tragedy 110 years later, when the cockle-pickers were drowned, perhaps depressingly accurate at least some of the time.

That’s a very sombre note on which to end an account of what had been a most enjoyable saunter!

Back To Jenny Brown’s

Cross Bay Walk

Before the off

Gathering on Arnside Promenade, opposite The Albion.

From guidebooks to guides: every other weekend from the spring through to autumn, Cedric Robinson, the Queen’s Guide to the Sands, or the Morecambe Bay Sand Pilot, leads groups across the bay from Arnside to Kents Bank. The first such expedition this year was at the end of April. Two different charity groups had sponsored walks organised, one of which was The Friends of Chernobyl’s Children which has a very active local group in Silverdale. Consequently, many of our friends were joining this walk, and we decided to go too.

Before the Kent viaduct was built, cross sands routes were a very commonly used link between Furness and the rest of Lancashire, but shifting channels, speeding tides and the presence of quicksand made experienced guides a must. Hence the Queen’s Guide, an unpaid post which has existed since the sixteenth century.

Yewbarrow, Whitbarrow Scar, River Kent, Kent Viaduct 

As the gull flies, from Arnside to Kent’s Bank is not too far, but a suitable place to cross the Kent has to be found. To that end we walked downriver and through the caravan park to White Creek…

A brief pause 

Where we stopped briefly to enjoy a last opportunity to get some shelter from the wind, to grab a snack and, for most people it seemed, to have a pee in the bushes.

Then we were off across the sands….

Crossing the sands 

As you can see, the sun shone. But the wind was in the east and it was bitterly cold.

Meathop Fell and Arnside Point 

We seemed to walk…

Looking towards the Forest of Bowland fells 

…a long old way…

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…getting further and further out into the bay, before we finally found a channel to cross.

B crossing first channel. Not cold, honest. 

It wasn’t too deep.

Reaching the far bank 

Quite easy in fact. What was all the fuss about?

It wasn’t the Kent! Just a channel left behind where the Kent ran last year.

A tiny star fish 

Little S was finding the whole thing a bit of a trial. He was momentarily cheered by finding this tiny starfish however.

Big space 

There’s an incredible feeling of space out in the bay and great views of the surrounding hills.

Eventually we reached the actual Kent channel. “No more than knee deep” we were told. I carried S across and in the process got wet far above my knees. I must have short legs. My friend the Adopted Yorkshire Woman did once tell me: “Your problem is that you’re too short for your height.”

Wading the Kent 

Wading the Kent.

From there we headed not directly for Kents Bank, but more towards Humphrey Head, before finally following the foreshore around to the station at Kents Bank, where we’d left a car. The foreshore was muddy and slippery, and not made easier by the fact that I now had S on my shoulders most of the time.

Cedric Robinson MBE 

Cedric Robinson MBE.

Grange and Hampsfell

Looking towards Kents Bank and Grange.

The guide and his helpers did a great job. The route was marked with branches jammed into the sand, somebody must have been out the day before to do it, and I gather that there may have been more work for them to do on the Sunday too.

A and B enjoyed their walk. S, in retrospect, was probably a little on the young side. I’m not sure how far we walked, one of the organisers told the kids 12 miles near the end, but that was on a simple 4 hours at 3mph calculation, and I suspect wildly inaccurate. I’d definitely do it again, but I fancy a warm summer evening with a Morecambe Bay sunset and fish and chips in Grange thrown in.

If you feel inspired and fancy having a go at a Cross Bay walk there’s a directory of organised walks here:

http://www.yourguide2thelakedistrict.co.uk/morecambe-bay-walks-c1042.html

If you’ve enjoyed reading the blog and feel moved to sponsor the kids (well you never know!) there’s an address for donations here:

http://www.focc.org.uk/FOCC_Pledge_An_Amount.html

Cross Bay Walk